DHS seeks location-tracking technology

Homeland Security Department officials are currently evaluating white papers on technology that could help locate, for example, firefighters and other emergency responders in high-rise buildings.

The Homeland Security Advanced Research Projects Agency (HSARPA) issued a broad agency announcement (BAA) last November that sought 22 different prototype technologies, including tracking capability, for emergency responders for various uses.

In that HSARPA solicitation – called the Rapid Technology Application Program – an Advanced 3-D Locator System would help accurately track and pinpoint first responders in threatened or collapsed buildings or in underground facilities.

“Accurate location and tracking is necessary in order to allow emergency managers, including fire chiefs and other incident commanders, to rapidly and effectively deploy and re-deploy their forces or understand and respond to the consequences of potential threats to their forces,” according to the BAA.

Capt. Vincent Doherty of the New York City Fire Department’s hazardous materials operations said his department has been seeking such technology before the 2001 terrorist attacks, when 343 firefighters and 23 police officers died responding to the World Trade Center emergency.

“That’s our number one requirement for FDNY this year – to get firefighter tracking,” he said Jan. 25 during a homeland security conference hosted by Equity International, a Washington, D.C.-based business development firm.

He said the technology, which he called the emergency responder in-building tracking system, is going to generate a lot of interest among first responder agencies and other groups, such as coal miners. Earlier this month, 12 West Virginia miners died while trapped underground following an explosion. West Virginia recently enacted legislation that would, among other things, require miners to wear electronic tracking devices while underground.

Doherty co-chairs the science and technology committee of the federally sanctioned InterAgency Board for Equipment Standardization and InterOperability, whose mission it is to coordinate local, state and federal standardization, interoperability and responder safety.

The HSARPA solicitation is seeking tracking technology that could specify the location of an individual in three dimensions within 20 feet – but preferably within 10 feet, among a host of requirements. It identifies users as Federal Emergency Management Agency and other DHS officials; state, local and tribal incident responders; law enforcement agencies and fire departments.

HSARPA officials will review white papers, which were due Jan. 3, and then notify vendors and others who submitted the papers whether they should or should not submit full proposals, which would be due by March 6. According to the BAA, multiple awards are expected.


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